NICOSIA — The Republic of Cyprus has stopped a ship full of North
Korean weapons systems bound for Syria.
Officials said Greek Cypriot authorities responded to an alert by
Interpol to capture a ship bound for Syria from North Korea. They said
security agents found a mobile air defense system and components of a
"We will implement the law, nothing more and nothing less," Cypriot
Justice Minister Sophocles Sophocleous said on Monday. "And the political
position will be expressed by the foreign minister."
This is the first time that the Republic
of Cyprus was believed to have seized a suspected weapons ship to Syria, Middle East Newsline reported.
The ship, named the Panamanian-flagged Grigorio-1, reported a
consignment of weather-observation equipment, officials said. But Interpol
asserted that the freighter contained North Korean weapons systems and asked
Nicosia to detain the ship for inspection.
Officials did not identify the North Korean air defense system. But they
reported 18 truck-mounted mobile radar systems and three command vehicles.
The ship did not contain any missiles, officials said. They said the
vessel carried irrigation pipes as well as components that could be
part of a missile launcher.
Officials said Damascus had asked Nicosia to release the seized
shipment. They said the ship's manifest does not identify Syria as the
NATO, which administers a program to halt suspected weapons of mass
destruction shipments, has denied participation in the Cypriot operation.
NATO has sought partners in Operation Active Endeavor, designed to monitor
the Mediterranean for Al Qaida as well as WMD suppliers.
On Monday, NATO hosted the seven-member Mediterranean Dialogue in London
in an effort to increase military and security relations. NATO officials, in
a conference co-sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute, urged
Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia to cooperate
with each other and the Western alliance in combating Al Qaida-aligned
groups and their sponsors.
The Grigorio-1 was tracked by Interpol for several months, officials
said. They said the ship was seized on Sept. 5 when it sailed near Larnaca
Officials said Grigorio-1 left North Korea for the Middle East and
stopped at several ports. They said the last leg of the journey began from
Egypt's Port Said toward the Syrian port of Latakia.